Saturday, August 1, 2015

The PRSL Camden Coaling Tower

The PRSL Pavonia Yard in Camden had a massive concrete coaling tower during its steam days.
I could only locate two published photos of it.
[Update: Just learned that there were no engine servicing faclities at the Pavonia Yard. 
They were located at the Camden Terminal Engine House (CTE) just south of the Broadway Station in Camden.]

Pavonia Coaling Tower - PRSL in Color by John Stroup p67
Pavonia Coaling Tower - Jim Foster PRSLHS
I found an old Walthers Coaling Tower kit that will probably be as close as I can come to it.
The kit is a nightmare with poor, limited instructions and even some assembly pictures being wrong.
Add to it my limited modeling skills and I barely got thought its construction.

Now I need to add a track off the turntable to feed it.

At least the PRSL, PRR, and Reading steamers will have something somewhat realistic to feed them. The Minitrix PRR K4s and Reading I10 consol are poor runners but at least they look pretty.




Thursday, July 16, 2015

Post Crusade - Project Updates

Now that I have completed my rant series on freight traffic actually having real meaning, I'll return to documenting some completed projects.

My Old ConCor RDCs have returned to their home rails after being decaled for their home road by friend Bob (Ntrainz1).

The local commuters are thrilled!
M409 & M413 glide into Woodbury

Woodbury station area

Commuters returning home through Westville

Edith Avenue in North Woodbury

I got tired of taking pictures of the north end of the rail yard that had a mauve (?, I am somewhat color blind) wall background. My wife wouldn't let me paint the 4th loft wall sky blue because it would clash with the downstairs colors, so I added a "sky blue backdrop". I got one of those school presentation boards from AC Moore, cut it in half vertically, and painted it my sky color. Naturally painting only one side warps the board so it spent some days under weights. I added a 1"x3" lip under the edge of the 3/4" plywood base and then used a 1"x4" board to sandwich the presentation board to the end of the layout. Naturally it was the layout end over the steps so I had to use one of those very heavy ladders that contort to 26 different position. Not elegant but functional and a reasonable cost solution.



Friday, July 10, 2015

Woodbury and Beyond

Although my Camden yard folks will argue with me, I think Woodbury is the heart of the layout. Although not much industry is there, everything came together here. It was the junction of 3 branches that spread across South Jersey. The main line was directed towards Millville and Vineland to the east. The Penns Grove / Deepwater branch followed the Delaware River to the south. This branch grew into the largest traffic generator as it serviced refineries and chemical plants along the Delaware River.  A third branch in the middle went into the rich farmlands in Elmer and Salem. New Jersey had a well-earned reputation as the "Garden State" and it fed vegetables and produce far beyond the Campbell Soup plant in Camden.

A wye connected the Salem and Penns Grove branches with a small yard in the middle. Salem trains used to terminate at Woodbury and drop their cars in the yard to be picked up by trains returning to Camden from the other 2 branches. At one time there was some sort of icing facility in the Woodbury yard but I have yet to uncover any pictures of it. The farms all needed iced reefers (in 1950s mechanical reefers were just beginning to show up) so it gives a big excuse to add operational interest.

Before you arrive in Woodbury, North Woodbury has 2 sidings. One for the Hollaway Lumber Co and another for a pipe company. The pipe company was later replaced with Cornell Steel, a steel fabricating business. I still haven't decided which will be the permanent resident of that siding.
North Woodbury; Cornell Steel and Hollaway Lumber
Woodbury had a bottling plant, a cement mixing spur and a furniture factory spur. I only modeled the bottling plant. The station itself had multiple team tracks to service the Acme food stores and a potato packing plant. Beyond Woodbury (and beyond the actual layout) were all sorts of farms and industries (DuPont, Sunoco, Oil, Shell Chemical) to generate a myriad of service requests.
Woodbury looking west
South Woodbury looking east; Bottling plant on left; yard between Millville and Penns Grove / Salem branches
There was not enough room to incorporate the wye but the small yard will see a lot of action since all the reefers headed for farm country will be stopping there for icing. Any local cars that need to be spotted on the northbound return trip can be dropped in the yard and picked up on the way back.


So I rest my case: the railroad, both real and modeled, exist to service customers and that should be its focus.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Consumers in Westville.

Continuing our customer freight focus we now turn our attention to the good people in Westville and again ask the question: what shipments are ready to be delivered, picked up, or forwarded?

Ah, the town of my youth (from birth to 3rd grade) and of my home churches for 40+ years. The town touted itself as the gateway to south jersey with good reason. Roads entering from Camden (the closest Delaware river access) would cross Big Timber Creek on a wooden trestle into Westville and then fan out in multiple directions leading to all the south Jersey towns and hamlets.
Timber Trestle Over Big Timber Creek
In the early 50s Westville had 6 private sidings and a team track that served 18 different shippers for feed, livestock, farm supplies, and lumber. Today only the spur to what used to be the oil refinery remains. We start with another of my convenient time warps. In 1906 the Pennsylvania RR built a power plant here to power the outside rail electric commuter service on the Millville branch. It had 5 tracks serving it coal and supplies. In 1924 the local power company made them an offer for cheaper electric that they coulndn't refuse so the plant shut down. Electric commuter service continued through WWII. The plant was finally torn down round the turn of the century. For my purposes the plant continued to serve into the 1950s and I have a single siding to service it with multiple coal cars 4 days a week and an occasional box car of supplies. They all leave empty. No coal, no commuter service! Get it!
PRSL (PRR) Power Plant in Westville
Another spur (the lead of which is the team track) services the Buzby Brothers cement company. Gondolas of sand and covered hoppers of cement flow in (and return empty). Its cement mixer trucks fan out from there, for this is the early 1950s and south Jersey is being webbed with many new interstates highways per President Eisenhower (just a tiny time warp). (All of which needed to provide multiple mile long straight sections in case it was necessary to land jet fighters in emergencies if the post WWII cold war continued to heat up with the Russians.) No sand and cement, no highways!
Buzby Bros.
Westville Team Track
We have already referred to the team track traffic, so let's go over to the Barry Bros. coal trestle. As a strong childhood memory I can still visualize a coal hopper on the trestle sporting a huge B&O logo. They supplied the bulk of the town with the coal needed, for then every home was heated with a monsterous octopus like coal furnace in their basement. Coal would be dumped through the trestle's open floor (held 2 hopper cars) into piles, A conveyor belt would scoop it up into dump trucks which then visited each home. They would spread their big metal slides out from the truck and shovel the coal which would travel down the slides into an open basement window and a cellar coal bin. Dads would stoke the furnace located on the dirt basement floors with coal in the morning and then in the evening before bed time to keep the house cozy in the winter. We would snuggle on the sofa on the winter evenings to watch those new-fangled tiny (in a huge console) black and white television sets. When the set would fail we would go next door to the local grocer and plug each TV vacuum tube into their testing machine to find out which one went bad this time and get the proper replacement to plug back in so Howdy Doody, the Mickey Mouse Club, Sally Starr, and Winky Dink could be brought back on air. No coal, the residents freeze!

Barry Bros. Coal Trestle
Next came the Texaco siding. Previously the spur had serviced land owned by Campbell Soup to grow tomatoes and produce for company factory in Camden. Then Texaco built a huge oil refinery there. Its spur currently goes off layout (but will soon have a small refinery intruding into the aisle (North Shore kit, fence, and a Blair animated Texaco sign.) This spur is serviced by the Bulson Street tank sweeper we referred to last blog. It will switch the Texaco refinery and go through Woodbury and down  the Penns Grove branch to service the off-line Sunoco refinery in Paulsboro. No tank cars, and your automobile doesn't run!
Texaco Refinery (under construction)
Finally in South Westville another spur got repurposed. Originally 2 sidings served lumber companies there. Decades later a Del Monte distribution plant took its place. And thanks to another convenient time warp, it receives reefers of frozen foods and an occasional box car of supplies (cardboard boxes. etc.). (A barber and news store was across the street and one of the town's fire companies was at the other corner.) No food, the people starve!
Del Monte Food Distributors. This building needs to be replaced with a white 2 story concrete building with a round roof.
Update: I've added some overall views of the Westville area to enable you to view the "big picture":
Overall view of Westville looking west  (Buzby Bros. in upper left corner)
Closer view looking west
South Westville looking north

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Delivering the Freight - A Transportation System

After three operations sessions we know we can run the passenger and freight schedules of the Pennsylvania - Reading Seashore Lines but I think we may have lost sight of the purpose of running those trains.. Sure the trains all ran but:
*   Do we know if the power company got enough coal to keep the generators running so that the people in the towns could keep the lights on?
*   Did the local Acme get enough cans to restock the store shelves after the weekend?
*   Did Campbell Soup get enough tomatoes to can soup?
*   Does Barry Brothers have a hopper car on its trestle so that the people of Westville can have enough coal slid into their basement windows to keep the furnaces fed and the houses heated?

By the shape of the waybills collections (and their locations) following an Op Session I doubt if we could answer those questions. So it is time to review the purpose of running the railroad, and why we run those trains.

To do that we will review the philosophy of why the railroad is there, its customers, and what they need.

1) The railroad exists to serve its customers (and make money doing so).
2) We will review how we imitate that and
3) Go town by town reviewing the industries and their needs.

We already answered question #1 so let's look at Q#2.

Since I model the towns I grew up in, I pretty much know the companies and industries that existed there. I did cheat somewhat and substitute some later actual industries for what were duplicate town industries in 1950s. (In the 50s it seems every town had multiple coal companies and lumber yards so I removed some duplicates with an industry that occupied that location a decade or two later.)

The Reading modelers site has a 1954 Reading RR freight database listing the main commodities delivered to each location. Here was a gold mine of the companies and shipments destined to the team tracks located in each town. So now we have all the industries and shipment types.

I began by making a spreadsheet of each company (within each town) and estimated the types of supplies they would get in and the products they would ship out, by car type. After estimating the number of cars the layout could handle I developed the following schedule:



Now to use this information we use Micro Mark 4 cycle waybills. Most of the time we use 2-3 cycles. The third cycle usually points to destinations far outside of NJ so the cars end up on the Philadelphia transfer runs and return when needed on a Camden transfer.

I have a big stack of pre-made waybills so that I can meet the industry car (and shipment) requests, multiples of each request type for variety.


They are the items that make the layout a transportation system. Now let's look more closely at the industries on (and off the layout). Let's begin with Camden.

Camden has 2 hidden tracks behind its industries that we have yet to fine a use for (read the yard crew and Camden local are already busy enough).

Camden Pavonia yard receives an early morning transfer from Philadelphia (staging) which brings in shipments destined for South Jersey and any additional empties needed to service car requests (after we have used all available empties already in the yard).

Later it receives an oil tank car sweeper form staging (representing the other PRSL Camden yard, Bulson street, originally Reading RR property). In addition it makes up locals and forwards a coal drag to the Atlantic City Electric power plant in Deepwater. Whenever it finds time it services the Camden Industries. RCA & Campbell Soup were big time clients of the PRSL in the early 1950s. Van Sciber was a big name furniture factory in Camden with a distinctive building and prominent name. In real life it only used a local team track but on my layout it earns its own spur.

From the spreadsheet you can see what comes and goes (and when) on each of the 3 industries.



Keep in mind that Campbell Soup receives a big portion of its input produce from the multitude of southern New Jersey farms in the area. Each of these received refrigerator cars that first had to be iced in Woodbury before going to the farms (mechanical reefers were just beginning to show up on the scene in the early 1950s). A complication that multiplies operations on the layout.

At this point we should clearly see that our focus should not be on running trains but on servicing our customers. 

I really struggle with realistic model railroads that have systems that merely move a car from one location to the next artificial destination on the card. They run trains for the sake of running trains. If that is what floats your boat - enjoy! It is your railroad and you have every right to do whatever pleases you. But you will have to excuse me now, I have customers that need servicing. 

(Next blog we will move onto Westville and Woodbury. Stay tuned.)

Update: I've added an overall view of Camden to help visualize the city layout (which is being modified as we speak :-)  ):
Overall view of Camden industrial area

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Camden Control Panel

Got the last of the replacement control panels installed. 13 SPDT Ctr Off toggles.
I can now retire the soldering iron and let the burns heal!  



Friday, May 22, 2015

I've added Rix railings to the 30th street station scene (see April 30th blog entry) and added roadway striping. Unfortunately the 1/32" striping has lost some of its stickiness and will eventually need to be replaced. It's getting there slooooowly.





Op Session 3 Post Mortem

Positives
1) We had a lot of fun
2) We got to run almost the entire train schedule
3) Short sleeves definitely keep the scenery damage levels down (sorry about those scraped forearms)  :-)


Problems to fix
1) I need to solder a joint in the LX yard lead
2) I need to remove 1 balky covered hopper (too light to stay on the tracks)
3) A coupler drooped and basically fell out of one of the sharks that recently had KD's installed (a B unit also had a coupler failure prior to the beginning of the session)
4) Need to check the staging yard which is power routed via turnouts (possibly 2 were being powered at once)
5) Out of 37 cars remaining in the Pavonia side of the yard, only 1 load and 6 empties were classified onto the correct tracks at the end of the session
6) None of the yard waybills were turned
7) Two pairs of engines were left interspersed with the freight cars within the yard
8) Tim left without his homework (a tower kit to build)


Conclusions:
1) The first positive totally outweighs all the problems
2) We are getting really good at running trains
3) We have a glaring need to review the purpose of the waybill usage (we are moving freight not just running trains)
4) We need to reduce demerits to at least only double figures!  :-)
5) In another year we should have the hang of it.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Operating Session #3

Some of my friends from nScale.net and therailwire.net forums joined me for a 3rd operation session. The goal was to run a full day's PRSL schedule (1974 - the only one I have; trackage and target era is early 1950s). We fell just short of acheiveing that. Bob (NTrainz1) and Tim (host of themodelrailcastshow.com) manned the Camden Pavonia Yard (Brown Tower) and Gene (epumph) and I took Red Oak tower (Brooklawn, Westville, Woodbury).

All the trains leave Camden and return and get (re)classified!

1) Philly Merchandise Transfer
                                    Originates from staging
                                    Classify into appropriate trains
                                    Save engine(s) & caboose for return trip

2) WY843/842            Deepwater Coal Drag to Atlantic City Electric (Deepwater on Penns Grove branch)
                                    Originates from Philly (staging)
                                    Change engines (RDG to PRR/PRSL & Caboose RDG to PRSL and dispatch
                                    When WY842 returns: reverse engine and caboose changes & dispatch to Philly (staging)

*) Camden Local        Fit in whenever you have time
                                    Services RCA, Van Sciber, & Campbell Soup

3) WY33/34                Millville local

4) WY841/840            Deepwater local

5) WY79/80                Tank train sweeper for Texaco (Westville) and Sunoco (Paulsboro (off-line)).

6) Pavonia to Philly Merchandise transfer
                                    Use original engines(s) and caboose
                                    Forward all non-south Jersey freight and all empties not needed for tomorrow's runs

We ended with all trains run except for the Camden to Philly Merchandise transfer run. The last local (Penns Grove) had just returned to the Camden Pavonia yard but had not be broken down and classified. Mr. Tim also forgot to classify the Millville local when it returned, hence no Philly transfer. Oh well, next time!

We had a great time.
We have also started some guideline rules.
The guys will have to fill in the missing ones:

.....1) Rick is always right (he owns the railroad).
.....2) When something goes wrong, it is Tim's fault!
.....3)
.....4) Tim needs to be fed regularly
.....5) If it is not working, just keep pushing buttons and throwing toggle switches
.....6) 0-5-0 moves are only for engines (and re-rails)
.....7)
.....8) Just put that car over there, we'll get to it later

Bob hiding behind Tim as they attempt to get the next local out of Camden and over the road:

Bob's visiting U25B (only requires a modest 10-13 year time warp).

Gene (and Rick) had the best jobs. We had plenty of time to lean over Woodbury and harass the yard crew: "Where's our next local?!?!"


Saturday, May 9, 2015

What could have been!

The Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines in 2015?

The old real PRSL trackage has certainly seen its full share of the NS Heritage units (and UP and BNSF and old ATSF) but imagine if the PRSL were still alive today and these were its own units.

After receiving a friend's Reading SD70ACe, I couldn't resist forcing my 1950 trackage to endure yet another time warp to using today's power. Oh what could have been!